Gaels edge Varsity

Lacrosse wins in overtime thriller Sunday

Toronto attack player Will Dunlop sends Queen’s middle Stephen Bathe head over heels.
Toronto attack player Will Dunlop sends Queen’s middle Stephen Bathe head over heels.
Gaels’ defenseman Jonah Withers challenges Toronto’s middle Mikael Chullen.
Gaels’ defenseman Jonah Withers challenges Toronto’s middle Mikael Chullen.

The men’s lacrosse team overcame a deficit for an 8-7 overtime win over the University of Toronto Varsity Blues in their most bitterly contested game of the season on Sunday.

Things started poorly for the Gaels and they trailed 5-1 at the end of the first half. Queen’s rallied at the beginning of the third quarter after Nathan Leader netted the Gaels’ second goal of the game.

Feeding off of the sudden momentum shift, Torey Kohara was able to provoke the Blues defence into taking penalties early in the third quarter, then capitalizing on the power play by assisting Josh Booth on three goals from the point. Leader gave his team the lead with his third goal of the game, a behind-the-back, off-the-turf shot, marking the fifth unanswered goal for the Gaels.

“Those guys—Kohara, Booth and Leader—are always solid, and we have [new offensive coach] Ryan Campbell working with them heavily on offense this year,” head coach Jeff Wills said.

Frustrated by the Gaels’ quick offensive rise and the undisciplined play of his squad, U of T coach Garrett Kikot unleashed a vehement verbal attack at referee Ian Garrison—some of which included bemoaning his physical appearance—and was immediately ejected from the game and administered two three-minute penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Their coach’s absence didn’t faze the Blues, though, and they returned to score two goals, tying the game 6-6.

Early in the fourth quarter, after an impressive solo effort by Leader—where he single-handedly worked his way to the net for the Gaels’ seventh goal of the game—Queen’s pulled back and relied heavily on the stellar play of net minder Dan Blackburn. In the last 12 minutes of the game, Blackburn stopped several power play opportunities as well as a daunting two-man breakaway. “He was phenomenal,” Wills said. “He showed why he’s played for Team Canada.” The Blues would finally get one past Blackburn in the last two minutes with Beau Bassett’s first goal of the match, taking the game to overtime.

The Gaels were on the attack for the majority of the eight-minute overtime quarter, but were frustrated by the rejuvenated goaltending of Blues net minder Jon Carlo Bairos. With less than four minutes left, however, Leader again won several one-on-one battles and wove through the defence for his fifth goal.

It would turn out to be the game-winner as Queen’s would hold on to their one goal lead until the end of the overtime period, although heavily pressured by the Blues.

Wills said the tight victory is deserved but not ideal.

“I’m feeling lucky—very, very lucky,” he said. “We had a few key guys who came up huge, but lucky, lucky with a few deserved points.”

Wills said he attributes his team’s turnaround performance and four game win-streak to recaptured focus.

“I just told them how important this game was,” he said. “There’s a big difference between 3-2 and 4-1. … I think we’re more focused this year. The boys were a little disappointed with our record

last year.”

Wills said Blackburn’s performance was one of the key factors in the outcome, but Blackburn pointed to his team’s collective efforts in the overtime period as the largest factors in their success.

“[In overtime] I was feeling a bit anxious and nervous—frankly, I just don’t like playing in overtime because that’s when the pressure can get to you,” Blackburn said. “But I had them read pretty well, and on the field, [the team] said we got to step up our game and keep focus, and we did.”

Blackburn said this weekend’s win is important for the team’s momentum, especially considering their upcoming games against Bishop’s, McGill and Trent.

“It’s definitely a boost. I’d say the first half of our season is easier than the second half,” he said. “We’ve won the games we should’ve won and we’re going to try to carry this momentum into some very tough games in the future. … I think today’s win was the deciding win for whether or not we get a second or third place seeding, if we make the playoffs.”

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